"I wish we had been fortunate enough to move somewhere else, further away from these coal plants. We're both rooted in South End, and this is where we decided to start our family. Unfortunately we started it 100 feet from a coal ash dump, and Cody's suffering because of it. Because we weren't aware of the level of toxicity of this coal pollution."
Stephanie Hogan, 30 and Brian Dotson, 33 are young parents living next-door to the Cane Run power plant in the south end of Louisville, KY. The massive coal-fired plant, operated by Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E), emits 202 pounds of mercury into the air each year, and has generated a 15-foot-tall mountain of toxic coal ash.
Stephanie and Brian are suffering the consequences of living in the shadow of the toxic coal plant. Their 2-year old son Cody suffers from asthma, upper respiratory infections, and unexplained fevers of up to 105 degrees. Brian explains that, "He turned a year, and then we moved here. Being closer to the coal plant - I don't know if that's the cause -- but ever since we've moved, his health has tremendously gotten worse. More fevers and more infections."
Stephanie and Brian pay hundreds of dollars per month to treat Cody's health problems. Stephanie elaborates that "Cody and I have health insurance through my work, which is about $300 per month. He has to go to the doctor between 4 and 6 times a month, and it's $20 each times he goes. If we have to see a specialist like on Monday he had to go to get his hearing tested -- that's $50 each time. Plus equipment, we had to buy the nebulizer, that was $199, and I have to buy the Albuterol to go in the nebulizer, that's $24 a month. Plus other medications."
Besides the financial hardship that Cody's health problems are causing their family, Stephanie and Brian are angry at the emotional and life consequences of the pollution from Cane Run. Airborne coal ash regularly coats their front porch and cars, and makes it unsafe for Cody to play outside.
"Cody is a boy, and he plays in the dirt, and unfortunately he does get it on him. If he's ingesting toxins… or breathing it in… that's very scary," says Brian. "A lot of it is hidden. If we would've known some of the things they didn't tell us, we would not have made different choices."
"We would not have bought the property," says Stephanie. "We did not know. The thought of actually my child ingesting mercury, or having it on his skin. LG&E should not allow that."
"I'm very frustrated. We're in a situation with me being laid off work, where we can't just get up and leave. We'd like to be able to," says Brian. "We've had our doctor tell us that the only way to fix Cody's health is to get up and move. And life don't always allow you to do that."
Stephanie says: "I wish we had been fortunate enough to move somewhere else, further away from these coal plants. We're both rooted in South End, this is where our parents are, this is where we were raised, and this is where we decided to start our family. Unfortunately we started it 100 feet from a coal ash dump, and Cody's suffering because of it. Because I wasn't aware of the level of toxicity of this coal pollution."
Stephanie and Brian and their neighbors recently formed a community organization, and are working with the Sierra Club to compel the EPA and municipal and state agencies to force LG&E to clean up Cane Run.
"We want them to either enforce the regulations that they already have, or create new ones to protect citizens. Coal ash is toxic," declares Stephanie.